News

New nonprofit hopes to transform Guild into state-of-the-art event venue

Group has agreement with owner to buy the building if plan comes to fruition

An early rendering of how a revamped Guild Theatre might be set up for a concert. (Image courtesy CAW Architects/The Peninsula Arts Guild.)

Pay a visit to Menlo Park's Guild Theatre and it's easy to see why people are worried about its future. The paint is chipped, the marquee letters are faded and showtime crowds are rare.

But the founders of a new nonprofit propose to transfigure the has-been theater on El Camino Real in Menlo Park into a state-of-the-art entertainment venue. They plan to announce their new organization and its mission at the Menlo Park City Council goal-setting meeting Jan. 29.

According to one of the founders, Drew Dunlevie of Menlo Park, the organization, called the Peninsula Arts Guild, was founded with the goal of establishing and programming a community-driven events venue that can draw top-tier acts to the Peninsula.

He is joined in his effort by two colleagues, Pete Briger and Thomas Layton – "very successful people by Silicon Valley standards" who are also "very philanthropic," Mr. Dunlevie said.

"Fewer people go to the movies, full stop," he said. "Single-screen art house theaters have been hit the hardest."

"Our goal is to construct or refurbish a top-flight, world-class, kick-ass multifaceted entertainment venue on the Peninsula."

The venue could be used for events such as school plays, jazz shows, comedians, author talks, band or singer shows, speaker series, and movies, he said. "The venue will have a definite 'by the community, for the community' approach."

He said the organization has cut an option agreement with the Guild Theatre's owner, Howard "Sandy" Crittenden of Atherton. "We have the right to buy the theater, should we want to," he said.

But the project is not a done deal, he noted. The nonprofit is committed to getting a venue on the Peninsula and has chosen the Guild Theatre as its preferred location. If things don't work out in Menlo Park, though, the group is determined to bring the plan to fruition elsewhere on the Peninsula.

"We're not developers," he said. "We don't have years and billions to spend to think about this."

The project is likely to require Menlo Park city staff prioritization to get it through the entitlement process. From there, Mr. Dunlevie said, the construction work would likely take a year and a half to two years to complete.

One likely challenge the project would face is the Guild Theater's lack of a designated parking lot; any change in use would likely trigger the requirement to add parking.

Mr. Dunlevie expects the project to cost anywhere from $10 million to $20 million in capital costs, depending on the level of refurbishing or rebuilding required, which would be covered by the nonprofit.

The venue would be open to the community to schedule events, and he and his colleagues plan to book the site with "top-flight" talent – for example, acts that come to Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheater or San Francisco's Fillmore for big shows, or more regularly venues like Slim's or the Great American Music Hall, he said.

"We think we can punch above our weight class on venue size," he said, adding that he hopes the quality of the new venue will draw top performers, and "get those guys paid what they need."

But the venue could also be available to book for community events such as, for example, an Oak Knoll school play or a garage band night, depending on what people want. Mr. Dunlevie said the plan has also been met with enthusiasm by Kepler's, which could host author events at the site.

Retaining the ability to show movies will be a priority at the venue, he said, but added that he wasn't sure the theater would be able to continue to offer first-run movies.

Judy Adams, a Menlo Park resident who in September 2016 launched a petition aimed at restoring the movie theater to its former glory, garnering about 4,000 hard-copy and online signatures, said in an email that "our petition's goals, and Drew's nonprofit, it seems to me, can be mutually beneficial and possible."

She said that she'd like to see the theater continue to offer first-run movies, and that films be offered as a key part of the theater's future.

"I realize that change is necessary, but I'm also for preservation of the key element of the Guild's history. It has survived from its burlesque roots, silent films, talkies, and is struggling to continue to contribute to the community in the age of home theaters, streaming video and multiplex cinemas as are other historic - modest - moviehouses throughout the country," she said.

She's put out requests for petitioners to voice their support for the space's continued operation as a theater, and several people have already emailed the City Council expressing those wishes.

According to Menlo Park City Councilman Ray Mueller, having a mix of entertainment options in downtown Menlo Park is "a vital component of quality of life that residents want."

"I think it's going to be a ton of fun," he said. "I couldn't be more excited about it."

Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said the project could be exciting. She expressed concern that the city already has a fairly lengthy work plan and limited staff, but noted the venue "would be great for businesses and restaurants as it will bring more customers downtown, especially in the evening."

The Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to meet from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, for its annual goal-setting session in the Oak Room of the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center. Access the agenda here.

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Mark D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 26, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Mark D. is a registered user.

"Our goal is to construct or refurbish a top-flight, world-class, kick-ass multifaceted entertainment venue on the Peninsula."

It takes but one overexuberant sentence to render your vision that of a clown, full stop.

Mark D.


8 people like this
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 26, 2018 at 12:55 pm

henry fox is a registered user.

Menlo Park wants a first-run movie theater somewhere. Where?

Thinking El Camino--Stanford project? greenhart project? Keppler's area? one of the revolving restaurants on ECR?


22 people like this
Posted by Menlo Dark Transformed
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 26, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Put a new multiplex first run movie theatre in the long awaited parking structure. Then downtown will have two entertainment venues: the new Guild with live entertainment AND a new movie theatre.


31 people like this
Posted by Allied arts resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Very excited about this project and hopeful that we will have a place to watch live music in our town! I for one am excited to be able to walk to the guild and see live performances. Hopeful that our city council will help this vision come to fruition!


13 people like this
Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Jan 26, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Sounds good but where are all the people going to park?


20 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 2:46 pm

I am so excited for this possibility! This is the type of thing that will continue the revitalization of Menlo Park.


18 people like this
Posted by J.H.
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 26, 2018 at 2:49 pm

This is EXACTLY what downtown Menlo Park needs. We've lived here for eight years and I've watched Redwood City, San Carlos, and other similar cities offer more attractive reasons to visit their downtowns than anything available here. There's obviously a balance to be struck between retaining the "feel" and history of a place and changing to grow as a community, and this project satisfies both sides of that equation.


18 people like this
Posted by M Huber
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2018 at 3:22 pm

This is going to be so great. I wish we'd had this when I was growing up in the area. Cannot wait to see killer shows in my hometown- and not have to trek up to SF!


13 people like this
Posted by Rob C
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 26, 2018 at 4:00 pm

This will be so great for arts in our area. That building deserves being put to good use. And will be fantastic to not have to drive a half-hour or more to San Jose/ Mt View/ SF to see music!


19 people like this
Posted by Betty T
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 26, 2018 at 4:04 pm

We have Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center that has parking and holds 500 people.


36 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 26, 2018 at 4:07 pm

The last I looked, an independent movie theater showing such excellent films as the recent Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill in the early days of WWII, adds enormously to the cultural richness and "vibrancy" of the city. How fortunate we are that the Guild brings us such high quality films right to our doorstep!

Recall that the city spent some $2 million of our taxpayer money to "partner" with Menlo Atherton High School on its relatively recently constructed Center for the Performing Arts. So Menlo Park already has a much bigger arts venue than the Guild space could provide, with a real parking lot--which the Guild doesn't have--less than 10 minutes away from the downtown.

What we DON'T have is another movie theater! When we weren't looking, our historic Park Theater, an Art Deco gem, was torn down. And cinema multiplexes show mainly big blockbusters, and often skip independent films, foreign films, and wonderful movies that may not bring in big crowds but are well worth seeing. These are exactly the kinds of movies shown at the Guild Theater.

Let's keep the Guild as a movie theater! And let's patronize it!


15 people like this
Posted by JT
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Gosh could our city use such a venue to bring a little life to our downtown or what? Great idea and hope it Mr. Dunlevie can make it happen. Go get em.


17 people like this
Posted by Mike D
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 26, 2018 at 5:50 pm

This type of venue is so overdue for the mid peninsula. And I say this as a long time resident (not that that matters). It will create vibrancy for menlo park, and bring music and fun here. I'm really looking forward to it! The Guild is a historic and important place and it deserves to live a long life with a new vision. Those of us who've lived here a while remember places like the New Varsity Theatre in PA which was a great in its time, but outlived its original mission, only to be taken over by a Borders Books and now Blue Bottle Coffee. Nothing wrong with those, but The Guild could live on as a venue for live music and culture, which is sorely, sorely missing on the mid peninsula.


18 people like this
Posted by Laurie Knox
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 6:42 pm

What a fabulous idea! Just what Menlo Park needs, to foster the arts right here in our own backyard. I fully support this proposal and sincerely hope it comes to fruition. Please lend your support! I have persinally known Drew Dunlevie for many years and we are in good hands.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 27, 2018 at 7:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A smart approach would be to pursue this is such a way as to NOT trigger the change of use parking requirement.


IMHO what is proposed is simply a revitalized movie theatre.


19 people like this
Posted by SR
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2018 at 8:59 am

Phenomenal idea! This type of venue is what Menlo Park needs. Considering the number of people who’ll take Uber and Lyft parking wouldn’t be as much of a concern as it would’ve been 10 years ago.
This would be a boost for Menlo Park restaurants, shops etc. Good luck!


8 people like this
Posted by john villa
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 27, 2018 at 10:16 am

Some one getting paid here what about the traffic and parking . Who is getting paid to get this deal going?


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 27, 2018 at 10:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Who is getting paid to get this deal going?"

It is a very strange thing called the free market - and the rules have already been set with the zoning established by the DSP


15 people like this
Posted by Menlo Music Fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 27, 2018 at 11:05 am

Hallelujah! This would be an incredible improvement for Menlo Park and one that I would visit regularly. We generally have to head to SF to get our live music fix and the commute is not fun especially on a weekday night. Given the lack of musical options in the area, this would be a game changer. For all of the development in Menlo that really doesn’t improve my life (eg, hotels, shopping), this would be a meaningful improvement.


5 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Parking problem. What about improving public transport so there's less parking needs, and more opportunities for people to attend performances or hold private events.

Good to see H. Crittendon considering this, considering he's the one who essentially ruined the Park Theater(which he also owned) when he took heavy tools to the exterior in the dead of night. There were no buyers for it at that time. It was a classic exterior.


14 people like this
Posted by Dorrian Porter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 27, 2018 at 1:33 pm

I would like to see Drew's vision realized in Menlo Park. It will have a positive impact on restaurants, retail and the general vibe of the city. This is a project that comes from Drew's heart which means the whole community will benefit even if not everyone in the community wants to attend a show. I was at the new Coffeebar this morning and for the first time in 20 years felt like Menlo Park has a chance to flourish as a downtown community. There are some great parts of downtown already (I love Ace, Cheeky Monkey and a couple of the restaurants) but our sense of community will grow with new ideas that want to see local residents get the most out of their local area.


10 people like this
Posted by Bill Mad
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 27, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Where all this peoples will park ? again Some rich peoples trying to hide their money and call it NON PROFIT sure


5 people like this
Posted by Lazaro Mcmillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Neat idea, but can they build that and keep anything from the old building? If it'd just be the sign remaining, maybe they should find a bigger parcel and build something from scratch that has some parking/loading. Sadly, the Park would've been better for this concept- bigger, nicer design, and I think they had at least a little parking? Oh well...


10 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keimer
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:03 pm

This comment from another reader bears repeating....

"Recall that the city spent some $2 million of our taxpayer money to "partner" with Menlo Atherton High School on its relatively recently constructed Center for the Performing Arts. So Menlo Park already has a much bigger arts venue than the Guild space could provide, with a real parking lot--which the Guild doesn't have--less than 10 minutes away from the downtown."

And word is that the new Menlo - Atherton center is under-utilized and having trouble getting adequate bookings.


12 people like this
Posted by Nikki Sokol
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 27, 2018 at 6:28 pm

I fully support this vision for our downtown. It would have immense public benefit. Our whole community would be enriched by the opportunities it would present.

I am grateful to this group for putting up the resources to bring this to our community. They clearly want to hear from the community about what other services the space could provide.

I don’t want to drive to San Francisco to see a great concert. Such a venue would dramatically increase our opportunities to not only live and work, but to play right here in Menlo Park.

Let’s take this once in a generation chance to say what we DO want and turn this into something great!


13 people like this
Posted by Karen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 27, 2018 at 9:40 pm

I would love to see this happen, especially if the venue were also open to youth bands. Since the closing of all-ages venues like San Mateo's Zappacinos, there hasn't been anywhere for a music scene to thrive. As a youth group advisor, I believe teen-initiated (and possibly teen-organized) open mic nights, battles of the bands, slam poetry nights, etc. outside the framework of school have the potential to build independence, community and culture. That is, assuming this place wouldn't be too "world-class" for youth-driven events.


11 people like this
Posted by MJ
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 27, 2018 at 10:00 pm

What a fantastic idea. I, for one, wholeheartedly support efforts to infuse life, community and culture into our downtown.


11 people like this
Posted by Michael Levinson
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 28, 2018 at 12:37 am

This would be amazing! I live a few blocks from the Guild and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of a real music venue downtown. Let’s make this happen!


9 people like this
Posted by The Guild
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 28, 2018 at 7:21 am

The Guild is a registered user.


I 110% support it. I go to the Club Fox in Redwood City on ocassion and could walk to the Guild,

Keep up your efforts if it's truly a non-profit I would consider donating.

You may want to discuss strategies with the club Fox owners.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 28, 2018 at 7:42 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a great idea but do not get the City involved or it will never happen.


5 people like this
Posted by Guild
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 28, 2018 at 8:04 am

Guild is a registered user.


From what I know of Howard he is a reasonable guy and would work with the city if they treat him with mutual respect.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 28, 2018 at 10:09 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"From what I know of Howard he is a reasonable guy and would work with the city if they treat him with mutual respect."

The city has a history of doing nothing but gumming up the works. Keep them out of it!


11 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2018 at 11:25 am

I don’t understand some of the comments rolling in here:
(1) Why the concern with parking? It will have the same impact as the existing movie theater. Have people been complaining about movie parking recently?

(2) The performing arts center at M-A is not a music club where you can get a drink and enjoy live music. We need this in the area — a lot of down here pine for nights out with friends enjoying music. Most bands don’t play high schools, and if that was M-A’s intended purpose, it’s clearly not working.

These guys want to improve an existing structure as a non-profit and bring live music to downtown (not 10 minutes from downtown). What is there not to like?


4 people like this
Posted by louise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 28, 2018 at 11:36 am

I don,t trust something here why they doing it and where the money coming from or going after ? can you tell us


11 people like this
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Note: I'm posting this statement, very close to the same content I have just posted on the comments thread for the City's proposal for a downtown garage/multi-screen movie theater adjacent to the Santa Cruz Ave. business district, because the two proposals are related.
* *
We will no doubt be seeing big changes in the Santa Cruz Avenue business district and at the Guild's location as a result of both proposals. I initiated the "Save the Guild" petition campaign, with more than 4000 signers who expressed their fervent wish to keep the Guild as a full-time movie house, with major renovations. Signers were from Menlo Park, and other peninsula cities, former residents, and a number of individuals and groups who were able to save their small neighborhood movie theaters. The petition was available online (and still is, although we stopped our major campaign a little more than 4000, seeing that as a significant watermark of public opinion. Online signers were able to leave comments, and people at the theater talked with me and volunteers about their fear of losing our remaining single-screen movie theater (of three theaters that used to be in our city).

The combination of the new proposal to renovate the Guild site as a live-entertainment, speaker series, film screening and film festival venue, and the City's plan to build a multi-screen movie on the ground level of the parking structure, gives us a potential “win-win” situation for movies in Menlo Park. With adequate parking capacity, study of traffic patterns entering and leaving the garage from El Camino, Santa Cruz and smaller surface streets, the garage can alleviate existing parking problems. The addition of a multi-screen first-run movie theater complex, it will make Menlo Park a popular destination for movie lovers here and in other peninsula cities who now come to the Guild. Both projects will also give a boost to downtown businesses, and restaurants. The parking/movie complex will also directly generate City revenues, and indirectly contribute to local business income. (As a “sidebar” comment, I would suggest that some percentage of revenue from the garage/theater complex be assigned in support of affordable and low-income housing in Menlo Park, including senior housing.)

We’ve known since the Jan 11, 2016 Almanac article that the future of the Guild was threatened, and that it might be redeveloped as offices or a mixed use building. The current proposal for the Guild’s location, which will have a variety of community cultural/entertainment uses, will be a bright addition to the El Camino corridor between the Greenheart and Stanford developments and their residents and businesses.

Assuming that the Guild property is sold, and the new proposal for the Guild Theater property goes forward, I and our 4000+ petition supporters will of course feel deeply the loss of our historic theater, part of Menlo Park's cultural and entertainment life since 1926. But this is the first proposal we have seen for the theater property since we started looking for “angel investors” in the Fall of 2016.

Drew Dunlevie, a partner in the new non-profit, will be speaking in the 3 minutes allotted to each speaker this coming Monday's "goals setting" community meeting for MP (Jan 29, 1-5pm at the Oak Room in the Arrillaga Rec building). He will be able to give a broad outline of the proposal to bring live entertainment, facility rental to community groups, speaker series, occasional films, and film festivals to the Guild property. I also plan to speak at the meeting, on behalf of myself and our petition-signers.

I will urge the non-profit to offer a full schedule of films at the "new Guild", not just occasional film screenings or film festivals. I will propose revising the film schedule to accommodate other facility uses, such as to offer only one matinee and one early evening showing (6 or 6:30) Monday through Sunday - to allow for other daytime community use and rentals, and late evening live entertainment. To encourage film festivals or speaker series, advanced publicity would inform movie fans of the schedule change when if will affect the movie schedule. To further encourage film, I have in the past suggested to the Guild management that they organize a local filmmakers films (including established local filmmakers like Dorothy Fadiman, and young film students) – which would be a great kick-off for the “new Guild’s” movie schedule.

Drew has told me that he has movie industry and movie distribution contacts but has also said that they probably can't get first-run movies at affordable prices. However, he is a persuasive and enterprising person, and with his contacts, and the resources and involvement of the non-profit’s backers, I believe that they can be successful in bringing recent releases (otherwise known as “not first-run” films) that have gotten good reviews to show on a regular schedule. But I believe there is also a good possibility that with his connections and entrepreneurial spirit, he can continue to offer the kind of indie and foreign films now shown at the Guild on a month-to-month agreement, which has sustained the Guild theater for years, either through a continuation with Landmark, the Guild's current film provider, or another distributor. A month-to-month agreement would give the "new Guild" flexibility to evaluate the arrangement.

I’d like to characterize the interdependence of a regular film schedule and live entertainment at the new facility on the Guild site, by saying that I believe that live-entertainment supporters will try the movies; and movie-goers will try the live-entertainment, as long as both have diverse offerings appealing to baby boomers as well as millennials for both film and live-entertainment (music, comics, etc.). Again, a win-win for the redevelopment plans for the Guild site from the new proposal.

To bring my comments back to the City’s garage/theater proposal, another possible benefit, depending on the timing of permits, renovation or rebuilding at the Guild site, and for the proposed downtown garage/theater complex, we might not have a gap in movie options for the community if the Guild project “comes on line” before the garage/cinema project, another win-win situation and an example of City and business cooperation and synergy. Of course, when the Guild site is being renovated or rebuilt, we will have an unavoidable gap in local movie options, but we do have Palo Alto’s Aquarius, the Guild’s “partner” Landmark theater for many years.

I eagerly await a rebirth for the movies, regularly, at the Guild location -- with different offerings than at the Aquarius, as well as the new downtown cineplex! Continuing a Monday through Sunday film schedule would honor the Guild's core function as a long-standing movie house El Camino, reliably serving Menlo Park and other communities on the peninsula an beyond. Many communities have successfully nurtured and updated small, even single-screen neighborhood theaters as part of their cultural and entertainment options. We can do it here too, with the exciting combination of options proposed by the Peninsula Arts Guild. Although overall attendance at the Guild has had its ups and downs, it has survived this long, despite its lack of recent substantial renovation of its interior, fading paint and cracks in its façade and 1940’s marquee that needs repair. Last night’s screening of “Phantom Thread,” possibly Daniel Day-Lewis’s last film, is a case in point, as it attracted a full house, as have other recent offerings at the Guild, including Oscar-nominated films.

Imagine the benefits of a new live entertainment venue with regular and special film offerings at the Guild’s location, and the multi-screen cinema’s film options closer to Santa Cruz Ave. and its adjacent shops and restaurants A feast for film lovers – dinner out in Menlo Park, and a full “menu” of film options. I say, let's go ahead with both projects, for the good of the city, with the recommendations I’ve made for the continuation of a full schedule of films at the Guild’s location.


7 people like this
Posted by Stephanie P.
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 28, 2018 at 8:54 pm

What a terrific idea! I greatly appreciate the vision and efforts of this non-profit to bring a live music and entertainment venue to Menlo Park. I really hope the City Council will help make this plan a reality - let's not lose the concept to a neighboring town!


6 people like this
Posted by Janet M
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 28, 2018 at 10:07 pm

WOW!!! EXACTLY what Menlo Park needs! Lets bring some life and great music to Menlo Park! I LOVE the idea and support the idea of a new venue wholeheartedly!


5 people like this
Posted by Imagine the New Guild
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 29, 2018 at 1:03 am

We are so fortunate to have a group propose and fund an idea that can truly Save the Guild. If not, the Guild is unlikely to sustain enough patrons to stay profitable as a single screen theater, and this parcel would likely end up as condos or worse. The new performance use is spot on, and will attract many more patrons, residents, dollars. I believe they still consider screening art house films here too, so its a win-win! I love the MA-PAC, but it is not a venue for live music like the Fox Theater and others. We need one of those in Menlo Park! Lets make this happen and see what Menlo Park can become. Here's to the New Guild, lets make this happen!


5 people like this
Posted by Richard H
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 29, 2018 at 7:24 am

This is a fantastic idea! I hope the City Council makes this a priority.


5 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 29, 2018 at 9:41 am

This is a great opportunity - a new space with all the money put up by a group of philanthropists, with no ask to the city other than for permission. All we have to do is say yes. Let’s not waste this opportunity.


6 people like this
Posted by Wrong path.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 29, 2018 at 11:29 am

Another white elephant - ask the Stanford Theater what it costs to perpetually and operate. Bless 'em.

The Festival, the Bijou, the Paris, the New Varsity - all downtown Palo Alto, and now gone. The model doesn't work.

Netflix kills this generation of movie theaters

As for entertainment - Stanford Bing, the Studio at Bing, The Fox, the Little Fox, is cleaning up with visiting acts.


4 people like this
Posted by Lisa Abramson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 31, 2018 at 7:45 am

What a great idea! They've done something similar with the Sweetwater in Marin. I wish you luck!


6 people like this
Posted by Becky Fischbach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 31, 2018 at 1:33 pm

I want to thank Drew Dunlevie and his supporters for stepping up with what seems a viable and well-received proposal to retain the Guild location as a cultural venue. In addition to the exciting prospect of live music, comedy, speakers, and other community events, I hope that you, Drew, and the Peninsula Arts Guild will continue to feature foreign and independent films at the Guild location as part of a multi-generational art house program.

In my opinion, love of the movies on the big screen, the great American pastime, is not going away. It may be dormant in the young, but the pleasure of seeing good, non-blockbuster cinema projected on a big screen in the company of others as a shared experience is an enduring pleasure. If your children have never experienced it, encourage them to try it before the opportunity is lost to keep that part of community culture alive. Arrive to the smell of fresh popcorn and stay through the credits.

Retaining a regular program of film will not only please longtime fans but keep the doors open to the small movie house revival. Surely there will be one, and by doing so you’ll be ahead of the curve.


4 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2018 at 3:15 pm

It may be hard to get top-flight (or even medium-flight) live entertainment @ the Guild. Top quality entertainers perform for money. How many seats will the revitalized Guild have? How much must each of those cost in order to pay the performing talent? 150 x $50= $7,500 gross. What's the overhead on the theater? Insurance, utilities, maintenance, staff? Some posters here want alcohol served. Does that mean a liquor license?

Don't disparage the Performing Arts Center @ M-A. It seats 482 & is a great venue. I go to Music at Menlo concerts there & enjoy easy parking & very good acoustics. Non-alcoholic intermission refreshments are available, just as at Tressider or Dinkelspiel.

Howard Crittenden is a very reasonable man, in my experience. I've had business dealings with him. It was unfortunate that the City of MP was so obstructive re: his plans & attempts to refurbish/repurpose the Park.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Didn't the city of Menlo Park pay millions to fund a certain number of days for local city-wide entertainment at the Performing Arts Center at M-A? As I recall there have been problems getting those days for local city-wide entertainment. What would make the city think a revised Guild would be better or different? Whose job is it to monitor the theater at M-A?


4 people like this
Posted by @ Louise @Bill Mad
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 1, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Not sure if you are one and the same, but....

The group is a NON-profit which means they are not making a profit on this deal...so hard to see why they would want to pay off city officials for something they're not profiting from. Yes they will take in money to offset costs but this is not a goldmine they're sitting on.

I'm assuming they're putting up the capital because they love the community and they love live music. They are simply putting up the capital to renovate the space. Then people will buy tickets to pay for shows and cover operating costs. It's pretty simple.

There are many philanthropic people in this area who give to many different causes. This is just one like many others. Just because people are generous doesn't mean you need to be suspicious. Some people just like to create a bit of happiness. We should be grateful they are prepared to put up the money to save the place, otherwise it will become office space.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Being the flavor of the month for the Council seems exciting but once the city gets involved and this is deemed a change of use the demands placed on the project by the city will kill it.

When the Fire District was able to rent one of the auto dealerships ( paint shops, engine repairs, high traffic, etc) to use as a temporary replacement while Station 6 was being rebuilt the city demand over $400k of temporary improvements because the fire station would be a change of use!!! Needless to say the Fire District declined to waste that $400k and the replacement of Station 6 was once again delayed.




8 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 2:29 pm

An earlier plan to do something similar @ the Park about 12 years ago died because the "City" of MP demanded increased on-site & off-street parking which was impossible to provide on the space. The limited parking for the Park Theater which had been there for decades was deemed "insufficient" to allow any change of use.
The Guild has zero parking - it has no permitted access to use the parking lot behind the theater despite that being done for decades, with a wink as long as the personnel from the other businesses don't come running out threatening to tow theater goers.
I agree with Peter C & think MP has about the ______est council around. (Insert your own word as editor would undoubtedly delete mine.)


3 people like this
Posted by Joan marke
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 2, 2018 at 1:15 am

What kind of lies you giving to people here so you will serve alcohol to people and you also taking about family place and kids event ? So yes you are in it for the money and the sell of alcohol No thx you will not. Have my vote on alcohol


3 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 2, 2018 at 7:26 am

Given the Guild's decrepit state (I'd call it a dump, but somebody who runs the dump would probably complain), plus the nature of the proposal, this is likely to turn into an endless sinkhole for cash, with minimal returns for the community.

As long as it's private cash and not taxpayer cash, that's fine, but as taxpayers, we already pay for plenty of boondoggles without adding another one.

However, given the actual needs of actual people living in Menlo Park, it would be better to knock it down and build condos.


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Posted by alliedartsres
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Personally, I would prefer an investment that looks at reinventing the Guild for the 21st Century. The Alamo Drafthouse does just that. Web Link


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Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:47 pm

For something like an Alamo Drafthouse, the Guild is just way too small. Now, if you knock down that whole decrepit building and build an Alamo Drafthouse (with underground parking to solve the parking issue), I would be 100% in favor.


3 people like this
Posted by Scott burns
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 2, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Ok why we talking about life style and movies theatre can this non profit group give this money to all our menlo school for education


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Looking at the latest comments I'm wondering if the good folks that are interested in doing something with the Guild are facing an uphill battle. EVERYONE in MP has an opinion and they will beat anyone that wants to do something different with that opinion. That's why so little gets done here.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what the City is going to require - this project is DEAD ON ARRIVAL:

The Guild Theatre - Land Use Entitlement Approval
Complete the approval of the necessary entitlements for the Guild Theatre. The proposed reuse of the Guild Theatre, by a private non-profit developer, will require an amendment to the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan. The proposal is to renovate and expand the current facility as a live entertainment venue for music acts, while also allowing for periodic film showings and community events. The facility would be a three-level (finished basement) 11,000 sq. ft. structure. Staff will retain a consultant to identify a new use definition, modify permitted floor area ratio (FAR) for the new use and determine if additional environmental review would be required. Additional analysis would be required for traffic, parking, and historic assessment. The developer would be responsible for construction and operation of the facility.


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Posted by Jack Benny
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2018 at 9:10 am

Just making a pragmatic suggestion since this is a very competitive entertainment area and maintaining it for the long run can prove to be difficult.

A good example of decade long Public/Private partnership that seems to be working is in Alameda with the Alameda Theater. Web Link

Just for your consideration.


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Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2018 at 6:35 pm

Unless folks have heard otherwise, one should not assume that the nonprofit trying to get this deal done is going to turn this into a low cost venue for the range of arts activities that a true nonprofit would try to facilitate . These buyers seem like good and responsible business people but let please try to understand better the economic proposition for the patrons. Maybe Drew or one of his associates can comment. I believe we can continue to vet options that allow us to create a true public/private partnership that allows for a wide range of quality offerings for MP. An essentially full time music venue like Fox has never really been a high priority for the residents, has it?

Lets better understand the details with the current team so the city can evaluate. no disrespect to Drew and team -- just that more information would be great.


2 people like this
Posted by Maile Creamer
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:14 am

This is a great idea and desparately needed here in Menlo Park!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What was the last successful public-private in which the City of Menlo Park participated?


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Posted by Public Private
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:29 am

Peter Carpenter it's not a public private partnership. The Guild will be operated by the nonprofit. The City is contributing no money. But to answer your question:

Facebook fund Police Station/Community Center
Facebook Funded Schools Officer
Burgess Pool - Tim Sheeper athletics

Many more, but those immediately come to mind.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 11:41 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As soon as the City's requirements are costed out this project will be determined to be economically infeasible.


3 people like this
Posted by Dana Hdendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm

"Repurposing" the Guild Theater site as described is a great idea. And yes, Peter, I do NOT know whether it is feasible. However, I do know it takes passionate residents to make something like this happen and successful. So "pencil" it out and see if you can line-up support from all the key players. I believe many residents would contribute time, labor and, donations If they can see a reasonable plan. And please ignore naysayers; they appear every time someone tries to make changes that would be welcome by many residents. Others are welcome to simply ignore it.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dana - Do not confuse naysayers with experienced individuals who know how difficult the city will be if ANY change of use is proposed. I am talking about requirements that will take years rather than months to resolve and cost millions rather than thousands of dollars.


3 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:59 am

Peter: I am not accusing you of being a "naysayer". My reference was to all who spoke against the idea. And I did acknowledge your concern about whether the idea is feasible which is valid. I also encourage "believers" to see if they can make it happen. Almost every start-up would fail to get off the ground if the founders accepted early criticism.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendsrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2018 at 1:05 pm

"Mr. Dunlevie expects the project to cost anywhere from $10 million to $20 million in capital costs, depending on the level of refurbishing or rebuilding required, which would be covered by the nonprofit."

Has the Peninsula Arts Guild lined up the capital for this project?

What are they?


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Posted by another view
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 25, 2018 at 8:10 am

The MP Council seems to have gone 'ga ga' over this Guild Theater proposal.

Council: Anyone who uses El Camino or lives near, knows full well the congestion and lack of parking around this site. The proposal that the Guild would be expanded to about twice its current size and not provide any parking and believes this would not be a problem is simply ignoring the obvious.

This is probably another tactic for the Biz community to provide them with a parking structure. The agenda of City Staff to eliminate already available parking is in full view.

Finally, I seriously doubt the non profit sponsored initiative will not at some time come to the City looking for funding. That certainly was what happened years ago, with initiative led by ex-Mayor Chuck Kinney with the trees for Menlo. Didn't that effort start by saying the City would only be asked to contribute about $25,000, but ended up funding of much much more (a million I think) when Private contributions never came forth?


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Posted by Responsiveness
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 25, 2018 at 5:18 pm

"another view" takes the complicated/conspiratorial view, but it's actually much simpler: The City Council is supporting the New Guild proposal because an unprecedented number of their constituents do! Look at the Council email log for confirmation:

Web Link

Disagree all you want, but it'll probably work better if you put your name/address to it and write straight to the Council like all your neighbors did.


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Posted by Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2018 at 5:29 pm

The support for the Guild Theatre is just one more example of the enthusiasm in Menlo Park for the arts- in all forms - such as music, film, dance, painting, sculpture, etc. Thus, the City Council should appoint seven qualified and interested citizens to the MENLO PARK ART COMMISSION. Thus, a liaison will be formed to help make this project successful. Let's bring the subject of art back to life in Menlo Park and allow it to thrive. It is long overdue. Now is the time to allow this to happen.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Agree with Peter. But even more serious is the fact that this odd project looks to me like a loser. If it gets done, I give it 6 months, at most.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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